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How to Help Your Child Stay Focused During Online Learning

How to Help Your Child Stay Focused During Online Learning

Here's what to do if your student just can’t sit still when learning at home.

Half the kids in my son’s online classroom are spinning and bopping in their chairs and the other half are nowhere to be seen—and likely running down the hallways of their home. It’s tough for kids, especially young ones, to sit still for long periods of remote learning. What can parents do to help them stay focused?

“Let them stand! Who says you have to sit all day?” says Stacy Haynes, a professional counselor and educator at Little Hands Agency. She also urges parents to minimize the distraction—find quiet space for everyone to learn—and to allow for fidget toys, like fidget spinners, squishy balls, magnets, and paper clips. Diana Lee Santamaria, an early education specialist who writes bilingual books for kids, recommends setting a timer “so they have a clear-cut understanding of how much time they will be in that learning session.” And Rebecca Mannis, Ph.D., learning specialist and founder of Ivy Prep Learning Center, says parents should set small goals or deadlines for kids and then reward them with treats for attaining them. 

It’s also important to have a quiet and comfortable workstation, and to minimize the glare of the screen with proper lighting. Another trick, according to Sheila Liang of Singapore Math Learning Center, is to encourage him to take notes—this will help your child stay focused. A routine can also help—get up at the same time every day, eat a good breakfast, and make sure your child has everything she needs at her desk. Get him into the mindset that it’s time to stay focused and actively listen—which parents can enforce by modeling this behavior. 

Another surefire way to get out the wiggles is taking frequent breaks to move around. Here are some ideas for a quick mobile break time that will help kids refocus and reset: 

  • Go on a short bike ride. Even if it’s just around the block, let your kids breathe some fresh air and move their legs. 
  • Dance it out. Play your family’s favorite songs and bust a move
  • Get up and stretch. A couple of warrior poses on each leg and a long downward-facing dog should do the trick. 
  • Jump around. Use a trampoline, jumping rope, or just tennis shoes and a floor.
  • Organize a scavenger hunt. Plant 4-5 items based on a theme such as shapes or food and then give your kids clues to find them. 
  • Create an obstacle course. Use chalk to draw obstacle prompts on cement; create a Hula-Hoop challenge or use the hoops as steppingstones; crawl through tents or tunnels. 
  • Let them play with their hands. Give your kids a ball of clay or dough and ask them to make shapes. 
  • Zentangle. This game uses small squares of paper to create spur-of-the-moment designs, which helps the creator be in the moment and forget about other concerns, like algebra.

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Shana Liebman


Shana Liebman is the features editor of NYMP. She’s a writer and editor who has worked for magazines including New York MagazineSalon, and Travel & Leisure—and she is the mom of two energetic little boys.

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